The Big Picture Network: Middlesex County
To view a map of the Big Picture in Middlesex, click here.
Also available is the 'Caring for Nature in Middlesex' factsheet, part of a Carolinian Canada wide series. This factsheet is an excellent overview of Carolinian Canada habitat restoration and conservation work being done in Middlesex County. The Middlesex factsheet is available for download here (PDF 1.4 MB).
Saving Our Stream: A Community Effort on Gunn Farm
Medway Creek takes a sharp bend on Gunn farm near Arva. Over the years, the fast-moving water has caused severe bank erosion, cutting into valuable farmland. In October 2006, students from the University of Western Ontario worked with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority to install ‘LUNKERS' (“Little Underwater Neighbourhood Keepers Encompassing Rheotactic Salmonids”), structures built of hardwood and embedded into the stream-bed to provide quiet fish habitat in the fast-moving water. They are held in place with reinforcing rods and stones, and help to protect the bank from erosion, and offer fish an overhang that provides shade and safety. Members of the Arva Conservation Club later helped plant trees and shrubs along the stream between the fence and the water to improve biodiversity and add beauty to the farm. The project will help to improve water quality and fish habitat– a win-win-win, for the property owners, for the community and for the wildlife.
Middlesex Landowners Contribute to Natural Heritage Study
In 2001, the County of Middlesex asked 68 private landowners, five Conservation Authorities working within its boundaries and the Ministries of Natural Resources and Municipal Affairs and Housing, to participate in a coordinated natural heritage study in Middlesex County. The County recognized the need to develop a solid information base for the protection and rehabilitation of our natural heritage. At the same time, many landowners were interested to know what wild species and habitats were on their land. The landowners' contribution to the study helped to define what a “significant woodland” means in Middlesex County using criteria related to size, ground and surface water resources, interior forest and links to other natural areas.
The study, by Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, found that private landowners are proud stewards of important Middlesex heritage. Over 70% of their woodlands are significant and several landowners were excited to find rare species such as Kentucky Coffee-tree, the native Dense Blazing Star, Drooping Trillium and Red Mulberry. A network of conservation partners is now working closely with the landowners to plan and fund habitat projects that will help to improve property values. The study recommends a broad-based approach to build stewardship support for landowners in tandem with natural heritage policy to achieve an 18% increase in forest cover. This aim would restore the balance needed on the landscape to protect habitat, water, air and soil quality for future generations.
Join a Friend and Lend a Hand for Conservation
Friends of the Coves Subwatershed Inc. (FOTC) was formed by a concerned group of neighbours who wanted to protect the Coves Environmentally Significant Area in London. They developed a unique science-based plan to restore the natural habitat of this largely privately-owned area. This plan has since been adopted by the City of London, Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, Old South Community Organization and landowners who have signed stewardship agreements with the FOTC.
Friends of the Coves, with the help of many volunteers, has organized plantings to help protect waterways and establish wildlife corridors. Swallowtail Grove, their butterfly garden in Greenway Park, contains native trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses and an interpretive sign that explains their benefits. Native plants are low maintenance when they are planted in appropriate locations. Backyard habitat gardens are incredibly important because even deep in the city, pockets of otherwise hard-to-find native plants provide refuges for birds, butterflies, bees and other wild critters – it's a secret best shared!
Saving Mill Pond Heritage
In 1984, upon the opening of a trail, a small, dedicated group made it their goal to protect and conserve the local mill pond in a natural state and formed the Dorchester Mill Pond Committee. Working with surrounding homeowners, schools and community leaders, the group has protected and restored habitat and helped the pond evolve into a natural paradise for local recreation and wildlife. Linked to a Big Picture core site, the Dorchester Swamp, and the Thames River, this little pond has great natural heritage value. Over the years, the Committee has produced a biological inventory, guides and workshops and provided advice for natural heritage issues in the Dorchester area.
A Legacy of Conservation
An integral part of the Thames Talbot Land Trust's mandate is to conserve and restore the highly unique, diverse, threatened landscape of the Carolinian Life Zone. Much of the landscape is privately owned, and the Trust works with landowners to ensure that conservation and careful stewardship will be their legacy for future generations. The Trust is a great resource to help landowners explore land easements, donations and other creative options linking conservation and financial benefits. The Trust has worked together with caring landowners to establish several important new nature reserves in the county including Joany's Woods near Sylvan, Newport Forest near Wardsville, and Meadowlily Nature Preserve in London.
Stewardship Council Forests for Life
From seed collection to school greenhouses to tree planting, the Middlesex Stewardship Council engages diverse community members, youth and the developmentally-challenged to green the county. This program is an inspiring model for how a community can improve its relationship with the natural environment. It is just one of many Council projects that promote and demonstrate good stewardship of agricultural and natural resources in Middlesex County. The council partners with private landowners, community groups and agencies that respect private land ownership to access funding and assistance for projects with positive environmental impacts such as planting trees, shrubs or tallgrass prairie as buffer strips; creating wetlands; or enhancing species at risk habitat.
Rare Birds in Your Chimney
The McIlwraith Field Naturalists play an active role in preserving nature. The club owns and stewards Cedarcroft, an 11 ha (27 ac) nature reserve along the Thames River with hardwood forest, a pine plantation, deep ravine, creek and riparian habitats. For more than a decade, they have operated Project Peregrine, monitoring breeding Peregrine Falcons on a nesting ledge on the Wellington Street TD Canada Trust building in London. A more recent program, known as SwiftWatch, involves volunteers monitoring Chimney Swifts, threatened birds that use London chimneys for summer breeding and fall roosts. The club helps the community learn about local natural heritage with inventories, a guide to the natural areas, lectures and workshops.
Nairn Creek Landowners Exceed Expectations
Along Nairn Creek, near Denfield, the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) asked landowners to help plant buffers along the creek where it ran through their land. ABCA set a goal of 5 km of buffers over 10 years, but landowners stepped up to the plate and planted 8 km of buffer in less than 3 years. The trees will grow up and shade the creek, increasing habitat for Brown Trout in this coldwater stream. The buffers will also help to keep the stream clear of sediment and reduce pollutants from run-off. “The Nairn Creek area landowners really set an amazing pace and we thank them for continuing to plant even after the initial target has been reached,” says Mari Veliz, with ABCA. “I think the residents understand they have good water quality and they are working hard to protect the resource that they have.”
Habitat Best Left Alone
In 1968, the Kanters bought 4 ha (10 ac) of pasture and Carolinian swamp-forest near Dorchester Swamp. They used a ‘hands-off' management approach, enjoying the property's natural beauty and walking trails, while raising a few horses and a cow on the pasture. Today, the mature forest is teeming with wildlife. Three years ago, Doris Kanter converted the pasture to a native tallgrass prairie, with the help of consultant Mathis Natvik and a grant from the Ontario Wetland Habitat Fund. ‘The soil is pure sand', says Doris, ‘and has good potential for the development of an oak savanna.'
Trees Help Clean Mussel Habitat in the Sydenham
Dave Siddall lives on the upper reaches of the Sydenham River northwest of Ilderton. In 2003, he decided to remove his cattle from the floodplain and naturalize 4 ha (10 ac) of pasture. Over 5,000 native trees and shrubs have been planted along the river on his property with the help of the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, reducing sediment and nutrient input into the river. The Sydenham is nationally significant for its mussel diversity, with over 32 species of native freshwater mussels. Many are species at risk and globally rare due to changing aquatic environments. Dave's floodplain project connects his upstream woodland to the natural river banks downstream and improves water quality in this important aquatic habitat.
Southwestern Ontario's Natural Paradise: Skunk's Misery
A small Presbyterian church in Wardsville has practiced careful selective logging over two decades to protect Skunk's Misery. This unique name conjures up a past when swamps dominated the landscape. Now, at 1,215 ha (3000 ac), it is one of the largest woodlands in southwestern Ontario, protecting the headwaters of the Thames and Sydenham Rivers and stretching from Newbury to Bothwell. Rare wetland, prairie and woodland ecosystems are stewarded by over 50 private landowners, as well as, the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority and the Middlesex County Woodland Advisory Committee, a group of caring citizens that uses best woodland management practices to sustain the site's rich natural heritage and community values.
Making Connections in Delaware
The Vanos family of Delaware created a diverse landscape on their 8 ha (20 ac) property when they retired it from corn and soybean production. They planted a forest of native trees and shrubs of varying sizes, built a large pond and used a native wildflower and grass seed mix to establish a beautiful meadow for wildlife. Through the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority's Communities for Nature program, the project provided an opportunity for local youth to learn about their environment and help restore important habitat. Their property is now a part of a natural network that includes the Delaware East Woodland and Lower Dingman Environmentally Sensitive Areas.
Wetlands and Woodlands Clean Water
In early 2007, the Kettle Creek Conservation Authority was asked to help create a 0.75 ha (1.9 ac) wetland on the Martin property alongside Dodd Creek. Over 1,500 native Carolinian tree and shrub species were planted and today, the habitat is thriving and used by a wide variety of mammals, birds and amphibians. Wetland projects are significant to Dodd Creek as it is a major tributary of Kettle Creek and relies largely on surface water recharge. The Martin wetland will release clean water slowly into Dodd Creek over the dry summer months, augmenting flow at a time when it is most needed. Planting trees bolsters forest cover, cleans air, filters water and protects soil from erosion.
Komoka Provincial Park
Komoka Provincial Park, located along the scenic shores of the Thames River west of London, is an important wildlife refuge and corridor. The flora of this unique area is a mix of southern, western and northern influences with deciduous forest, prairie and boreal habitats. In the park, a wide variety of rare plants and wildlife find a home, including Golden Eagle and Southern Flying Squirrel, the threatened Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle and the Water Star-grass. This picturesque area offers visitors opportunities to explore the extensive trail network throughout the year.
Planting the Forest City
ReForest London has partnered with more than 5,400 volunteers since 2005 to plant 6,000 native trees in parks, natural areas, schoolyards, and neighbourhoods throughout the City. The group encourages people to become more involved in creating a healthy environment by sharing expertise and providing organizational support. Matching funds are available to groups that want to plant trees in their neighbourhoods.